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Monday, May 17, 2004

Whither Van Helsing?
With the Indian market crashing on the somewhat misguided opinion of a return to socialism as the Congress Party retakes power and deeper uncertainty in Iraq, our own market took a tumble today sending stocks to scramble for footing along a fairly precipitous ledge. The economy, the other monster under Geroge W.'s bed or in his closet, or wherever that Iraq monster isn't, may rear its ugly head again soon if the slide continues this week. Gasoline prices are already past the psychologically potent $2.00 mark and with other price gauges seeing nothing but steady increases this year, inflation is now finally going to force fed chairman Greenspan to do what he should have done months ago, that is raise the prime rate.

It is interesting for a president who bills himself as decisive and steady to be so reactive rather than proactive, and the delays in making any moves in the financial market underlies this point. Right now, Greenspan is probably waiting yet again for the latest job figures, and if May disappoints they might try to forestall the move even longer. What they are really looking for is an eye-popping figure to point to and carry all the way to November. April's 300,000 new jobs wasn't good enough, they really would like to be over a million new jobs for the first part of the year, or a month in the 400,000 range so they can then give another bogus projection about the wonderful things that are going to come.

Of course, as soon as rates rise, hiring is going to freeze, particularly in construction. Of the sectors experiencing the most job growth in reccent quarters, health services is probably the most immune, but transports figure to take a hit, particularly in the robust parcel shipping segment. The United States Postal Service has in particular been one of the biggest contributors to new jobs this year. The quasi-government status of the USPS might give rise to some specualtion about manipulation, but the hirings appear to be legit. However, what is also fairly certain is that the postal jobs are running out, particularly in light of the still high fuel prices. All this is a way of saying that there are factors pointing to a turnaround and what has been a promising Spring for job seekers could turn into a bleak Summer quickly.

Now, this pessimistic assessment flies in the face of the economic projections I've been hearing/reading, but with the combined factors of A) rising cost prices (inflation) B) lower investment capital (the declining stock market) C) lower than expected sales figures and D) higher interest rates for business loans, I don't know where the money for these supposed new jobs will be coming from. What's worse, the rate increase is poised to hit small business owners particularly hard. Perhaps because a key part of his re-election campaign is reminding voters how kind his tax cuts have been to the small-business owner (as well as the wealthy individual or family, but he doesn't say that as much) President Bush is hesitant to pull the trigger to stem inflation before it really starts kinking things up, but the longer he waits the worse this quadruple hit gets. In the end, as with Iraq, John Kerry just has to sit back and watch this steady and decisive leader knee-jerk his way out of the White House.

One more note, government hiring outside the USPS has also been up, as well as hiring by public and private companies contracted to do government work. Again, all legit and not surprising considering that this administration has increased government spending more than any other in the last forty years. Also not surprising: because of this expansion along with Bush's continued pandering to all things ultra-right, as Andrew points out is the case with Colin Powell (who probably won't go this far), other moderate Republicans are crossing over en masse.

Bran 3:36 PM : |


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